Though I like a good cheesy giant tunneling worm movie as much as the next guy, I've gotta admit I've only watched the first of the movie series that's the basis for Sci-Fi's Tremors: The Series. I enjoyed that initial outing for its tongue-in-cheek tone and canny use of low-budget conventions, but I couldn' really see the need for a return to it. Sure, Michael Gross' right-wing wacko Burt Gummer was amusing the first time (particularly since we all knew the actor as soft-speakin' liberal dad on Family Ties), but too much exposure to the guy could be deadening - like remaking First Blood with Dale Gribble in the lead.
So if any of the honchos at Sci-Fi had asked me about the wisdom of buying a new series based on the S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock creations, I'd have said (after first chastising 'em for not holding onto Mystery Science Theatre), "Why bother? The setting is restrictive; the monsters may look cool but have minimal personality; and there's only a limited number of times you can make the word 'Assblaster' sound funny (I don't know what that exact number is, but I'm sure it exists.)" But that's why I'm not living in Hollywood, pulling down the big bucks, because they went and shot the show, anyway.
Like the first flick, Tremors: The Series is set in Perfection, Nevada (the name's ironic, kids!), a desert hellhole plagued by all manner of tunneling monsters - Graboids, Shriekers and Assblasters, for starts - with a minimal human population of rugged individualist types, all eager to somehow profit from the creatures' presence. Gross' Gummer has made a small living starring in survivalist videos, while onetime hippie Nancy Sterngood (Welcome Back Kotter's Marcia Strassman, returning to the persona that once led to her recording the Summer of Love single, "The Flower Children") crafts and sells sculptures of the area beasties. Town newcomer Tyler Reed (Victor Browne) has shown up after purchasing Desert Jack's Graboid Adventures from one of the earlier movie characters - and has dreams of pulling in big bucks with this tourist attraction. (Yeah, the guy's a sucker, but he's a former race car driver, so he's good for a fast-pace getaway.) The entire area ringing Perfection has been placed under government supervision by the Department of the Interior, since its biggest baddest giant worm, El Blanco, is an endangered species. As a result, we get the inevitable Big Gummint bureaucrat, W.D. Twitchell (Dean Norris), skulking around the desolate town.
That last bit of plotwork seems a bit - oh, I dunno, dated (Can you see the Bush Administration giving a rat's ass about an ugly monster that's an endangered species? Particularly when there are developers around, eager to turn the area into New Reno?) But, clearly, scripters Wilson & Maddock mean us to see the denizens of Perfection as pioneer entrepreneurs, striving to both live alongside and exploit the area's larger-than-life inhabitants. Also part of Perfection's population: a canny shopkeep (Lela Lee) and a former chorus girl/present rancher (Gladise Jiminez). Thirty years ago, you probably would've seen Barbara Stanwyck in the cast, but today the best we can do is stars from old sitcoms.
The show's debut, first broadcast last Friday, pretty much established the rules of the game: lots of bits with folks standing around talking about dangerous the area monsters are, interspersed with scenes of the ground trembling or moving towards our characters like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, plus the sporadic puppety monster attack. Half of the jokes are at the expense of "anti-social paramilitary paranoid" Gummer, but none of 'em are as bright or surreal as the ones offered weekly on King of the Hill.
Can Sci-Fi make this series fly? I personally doubt it, but, then, I only expected John Edward to be good for a twelve-week run. I should never underestimate the draw of a big worm. . .